Integrating and refining social interdependence theory and structural adaptation theory, we examined the effects of intergroup competition on the creativity of 70 four-person groups engaged in two idea generation tasks. We manipulated both group membership change (change, no change) and intergroup competition level (low, intermediate, high). Competition had the expected U-shaped relation with creativity in open (membership change) groups but failed to produce the hypothesized inverted U-shaped pattern in closed (no membership change) groups. In the latter, effects were positive for low to intermediate competition and flat for intermediate to high levels. Within-group collaboration mediated these effects.
Creativity. Collaboration: Collaborative idea generation, participative decision-making. Manipulation checks: Questions regarding perceptions of intergroup competitiveness.
Hypothesis 1: Evidence shows partial support for hypothesis 1. Open groups appear to have a significant negative effect on creativity in situations of low intergroup competitiveness while in situations of high intergroup competitiveness open groups have a significant positive effect on creativity. In closed groups, those treated with low intergroup competitiveness demonstrated significantly less creativity than participants treated with intermediate intergroup competitiveness, although for high levels of intergroup competition the effect is not significant. Hypothesis 2: Evidence shows some support to validate hypothesis 2, as collaboration appears to mediate the effects expected in hypothesis 1. These results are, however, based on a reduced sample.